Tae Soo did not say much after returning from the hospital.
"Is he going to be OK?"
"I paid for his treatment. He was not too bad, but the nose is broken, like I suspected. I don't think he wants to be here any longer than necessary and probably won't press charges against Rico."
"I'm tired. I'm going to take a shower."
Giselle knew what was coming next. She was dreading the uncomfortable discussion she knew Tae Soo was putting off. There was no escape from it this time around. Although she required no explanation, she was going to receive it.
He came out of the shower clean out and smelling deliciously, but still looking sullen. Without a word, Tae Soo opened up his laptop and quickly pulled up a few websites. He silently handed it over to Giselle. Paparazzi pictures, blogs and articles exposing various celebrities with their respective partners – but the main point of this exercise was the comments – pages and pages of comments by the outraged fans who were downright nasty and ruthless.
Giselle's mind could not wrap around the kind of things these anonymous avatars without names or faces said about strangers, whom them only glimpsed from the photos. People were incredibly hateful and cruel. Just a few positive or cheering comments were drowned in the sea of hateful remarks wishing for their favorite idol's lover to die and disappear so that their star shone brightly and lonely in the sky of their stardom just to cast its unreachable light on all the fans.
Giselle said nothing and closed the computer handing it over.
"This is just a taste of what's to come. People like him coming to find you, digging up dirt and creating stories. I could not let this happen to you. If you decide to be next to me – you will have to face it every day. For how long – I could not say. And I will not be able to protect you from the pain it will inflict on you. I will be helpless to do anything to keep you safe!" His face got contorted in agonized emotion. "Look at me – I had failed even with one person. There, in my country... Even if spent all the money I have, I could not muzzle everybody. It is just not possible.
My life glistens like diamonds, but in fact, it is as fragile as a piece of glass, it can crack and break as easily as it was put together. I am willing to put up with it, because I love being an actor. Because I have a goal...
You understand now? What kind of man would I be if let your name be published?
I would never ask you to take such a burden on yourself, unless you fully aware and prepared."
"I'm aware." She asked tentatively, "and if I'm willing to put up with it?"
"Then I would ask you hundred times more Are you sure? Can you handle it?"
"I get it. You don't need to drill it anymore. I get it very well."
Tae Soo took a long pause. "Honestly, I don't think this reporter will let go after today, especially after the stunt Rico pulled. So I'm expecting things to get ugly tomorrow."
"I'm sorry. It's all my fault. Because of me... If he just hunted you down, the worst he could do was to take pictures of you enjoying your vacation and eating fried chicken," she chuckled weakly at her lame joke. "Because you are next to me – these kind of things are happening."
Tae Soo produced the sweetest and most gentle smile, the one that always was accompanied by the birth of his dimples. "No." He shook his head definitively. "Trust me. If not you – he would have found some other sensational piece of news for the story, whether it was truth or not. Don't blame yourself. Don't dwell on it. I l..." He almost said I love you. It was a natural thing to say at the end of all of this, because he wanted to give her reassurance, but he bit his tongue.
P.S. I used google translate. So for those of you out there, who are native Korean speakers, please feel free to correct if this is wrong. I would be very happy to fix it.
If you guys are curious, the translation for "Yeogiseo dodaeche mwohaneun geoya" - the first phrase TS asks reporter is "What the hell are you doing here?"
"Yah, sakki!" - roughly means "Bastard!"
"Ulineun geolaeleul haessda!" - "We had a deal!"
The reporter, either scared by the beating or touched by Tae Soo's care, ended up not publishing any information about Giselle. He stuck to the deal he had made with Tae Soo initially and posted a few pictures with a vague description of a tropical paradise where the star was spending his time off. However, the sneaky bastard never promised to keep his mouth shut about his own condition. Whatever and whomever he told, he still managed to create a stir, capitalizing on his injuries. This led to unbelievable stories of Tae Soo rescuing the reporter from the gang of tourist robbing pirates or that the actor was caught up in a war between the two mafia groups for the territory dominance and the reporter helped him, eventually ending up with his nose broken. Either way, the legends were too outrageous for anybody with half the common sense to entertain them. The actor himself laughed at a few, relieved that none of them contained clues about him romancing a local resident, who lived with him in the same house.
However, within a few days of the initial posts, the rumors that Tae Soo was hiding some deep dark secret and thus, disappeared on his "vacation", spread over the net like wild fire. Speculations were abundant and his agency was issuing official disclaimers and refutations, but was not being successful at preventing the public from making all kinds of assumptions. His manager lost his patience and his mother was calling him daily, begging him to return and resume his duties.
"Is it a girl?" She asked.
"A girl? Mom! I have a right to take a break," he insisted. He adamantly denied their suspicions, when his sister tried to reason with him and fish for information. He was not about to expose Giselle after everything they had gone through.
All these frustrating fights made him mad. It took precious minutes away from spending time with the one person he actually wanted to be with. Frightening recognition that something was changing between them confronted him, and unspoken sadness covered previously clear blue skies with grey clouds, which were growing thicker and darker every day.
Both of them tried their best to conceal how hard it was to prepare for the inevitable separation. Tae Soo suddenly wished to take her shopping despite her protests. Giselle was averse to expensive gifts and he practically had to force her into a few outfits and shut her up with kisses as she pestered him at the cashiers. He insisted on buying her shoes: sneakers, and heels, and uber high tech hiking sandals, and boots, knowing that she would never splurge herself. She completely refused any jewelry because she found it to be too extravagant. Tae Soo was unsatisfied, but recognized that what he was doing was a shallow way to compensate for how they both felt – empty and in pain. No amount of presents could cushion the blow of what was coming.
Giselle put on her bravest face and was extra affectionate, using every opportunity to show him love. At odd moments she would stop whatever they were doing and cup his cheek; her fingers did not seem to be able to leave his face, she caressed him while looking deeply inside his eyes, silently expressing all the unsaid words. These intense moments of intimacy were so powerful, they both did not know how to handle them properly, left with tornado of feelings raging within and no solution to avoid the destruction they were causing.
While Tae Soo stoically endured, Giselle was crumbling inside, too much energy devoted for covering up her growing despair, and she was no longer sure how she became a prisoner on a runaway train of her emotions, gaining speed the farther she traveled, heading off the cliff without any chance for survival.
"Hey," he held her chin up, "Hey, what's wrong?"
"I don't know. I just don't know." She felt her eyes swelling from inside and tears slowly coming to the surface clouding her vision: the contours of his perfect face were undefined and his almond eyes covered by a beautiful veil diffusing the deep brown of the irises, like in the old time washed out photo.
He felt lost for a minute. Her sadness swept him into its hold and he ached deeply in his soul along with her. It was unbearable to watch her suffer so quietly, with such strength, when she obviously needed to scream and holler, weeping all of the twisted pain out. A woman he cared about cried in his arms and he felt absolutely helpless to console her.
"Shh…. It's OK." Was the only thing he could say that remotely reflected his impotence.
Giselle could not really see any more; a thin film of steady tears covering her vision suddenly went dark, obstructed by the warmth that encapsulated her pain and started to draw it out slowly and steadily. His lips emptied her mind, took her attention away from the unstoppable bleed of despair. Such a lovingly healing kiss of his full lips that were always a little bit dry, she could feel the chapped cracks against her cheek. He was not taking her lips, he was giving her his. He was drinking the pain and sorrow from her eyes, licking it off her skin, making it all better and all worse at the same time. The more he made her feel special and loved, the worse she felt. In fact what he had done was the last drop – "I love you."
"Giselle, you are…" he choked, words hitched in the airways, full of her, full of her affection and her grief. "You are everything to me. I can't imagine not ever knowing you before. You opened up my eyes, my heart and I never want to be closed off again." The words started pouring, breaking the dam that blocked him from speaking out before. "Look at me," the caress of his voice demanded her eyes to be open. A tear was running down his cheek. So real, so him, so Tae Soo.
"Giselle, I love you," he repeated, echoing in her heart what she has been trying to avoid for weeks now. She never wanted to hear it; she did not want to part with those words ringing in her mind.
He waited for her to say it back, the expectation shining on his open face, open for her.
"Thank you," she whispered out, tears flooding her again, she shuddered from the cry that flew out of her open mouth. "Me, too. I also…" she could barely talk, completely taken over, "love..." She sunk into the protection of his body, while he kept kissing her hair and gently patting her back.
Instead of happiness, he only felt overwhelming guilt for making her cry. He was so angry at his own weakness. If he were a better man, a stronger man, he would have kept to their agreement. Because he could not bear for his feelings to be silently locked in his heart, he upset her tremendously.
These three words were too powerful when spoken aloud, changing everything forever.
Because of his selfishness, he spoiled their wonderful time together, he ruined a perfect summer of love.
"I will not say it again, if this is what you want." It was hard enough to utter such a promise, even more impossible to look at her. There was no reply; he only felt a hot tear drop on his skin, burning its mark through it like a verdict, and Tae Soo understood completely.
They made a deal not to plan for the future, to focus on the moment, to guard each other's hearts with care. This unrealistic agreement held their summer union together by very thin threads, and now they were bursting at the seams, everything falling apart so rapidly, all they could do was to hold hands and crash and burn together till the end, till there was nothing left of them, but ashes.
Tae Soo did not want to go. The life he once used to lead back in Korea began to look less appealing and stale somehow, like old rice cakes, dry and tasteless.
"Oma, I'm OK. I told you already. I am enjoying my vacation. No, I don't want to return yet. And I never promised... Yes, Hyung. I know I have endorsement contracts, but the shooting is not supposed to start till October. I still have plenty of time... What do you mean I don't have a choice? I'm a free person, not a slave. Yes, OK... I have to go..." His chest was rising high and his frustration was all too evident to hide. He did not want to bother, not around Giselle, because he vowed to be himself with her. To be real Tae Soo, to be the man she liked, not the well controlled façade of his former self.
"Bad news?" She knew that Tae Soo had some responsibilities back home, that he was dodging the calls of his manager and speaking irritably on the phone late at night, trying to keep it down, yet ending up to raise his voice before eventually disconnecting the call. Till now, he chose not to tell her anything, besides that there were some work related problems and he was trying to deal with them.
"Yes. They want me to return now because of some stupid contract with Kolon Sports. It is too big and the company is very famous. Aish!"
"Here you go 'aishing' again," she softly hugged him from the back and when her body touched his, he suddenly realized that it was not the anger that made his ribcage expand from the intense pressure, it was fear. Fear of losing her so quickly, fear of losing Giselle and what they had. He was terrified at the idea of not seeing her cheerful face to greet him in the morning, at not being able to share his meals with her, of not seeing her bare feet trudging next to his on the beach. He just was not ready...
But Giselle already knew it was coming and that's why she cried last night. It was the end of August. The end of summer. His vacation was coming to an end and he blurted out "I love you", which he was not supposed to say. He should have kept it to himself. Ultimately, whether you say it or not, love is felt, so what's the point?!
"I don't want to leave you just yet."
"But we knew about it," she said with a brave and wise smile. "I knew about it. I knew who you were and what your life is all about."
"My life is no longer just about that." He looked at her poignantly.
Giselle averted her eyes. She had nothing to say to that. She had nothing to say altogether. In fact, she preferred they avoided the obvious topic completely. Denial was a bliss, but the longer she dwelled in it, the thinner the divide between the reality and her fantasy escape was becoming, letting the two worlds intermingle.
A couple more days passed in awkward tension. They balanced between the encroaching sadness and grasping onto the happiness of being together. Each look and touch began to hold double significance. Simple words and gestures gained heaviness of meanings that could not be expressed directly.
Giselle needed a diversion. They both did. "Tae Soo, let's drop the dramatic undertones."
"What are you saying?"
"You know what I'm saying. We are acting weird around each other, it's unnerving."
"No kidding!' Tae Soo stared at her for a second and then with a naughty twinkle proposed, "I have an idea. Let's go for a swim. The weather is great."
"Is it your idea of how to improve our situation."
"It will improve my situation." He winked at her, lifting a brow and one of his dimples popped up. He was obviously up to no good. Giselle giggled, covering her mouth. How much she loved his cute antics. The atmosphere around the house has gotten too serious and it felt liberating to have his mischievous and playful side reappear. "Put on that bikini we got you last time. I want to take pictures."
"So that you can drool over them when I'm not around?"
"Exactly!" He gave her a dangerously sexy glare, which she returned in liking. Tae Soo went to put on his swimming trunks and quickly returned in anticipation for Giselle modeling her gift.
She strutted out of her bedroom, projecting rare confidence that demanded to be acknowledged.
No matter how many times he encountered her sultry gaze, he had to manage his feelings. It was easy to talk seduction, but when Giselle was in front of him he inexorably turned into a lovelorn boy, a bit unsure of himself, forgetting that he was in fact a sex symbol himself and rightfully so. Tae Soo had to look away for a second, coughing before he pulled himself together. A bright cerulean fabric with golden metal accents played beautifully against her tanned skin. Her curves drew attention of the eye with the bright splashes of color highlighting her hips and bust.
"How do I look?" She batted her eyes at him coquettishly.
How did she look? Was it a trick question? She was smoking hot and he was not thinking that because he was in love. Instead of answering, Tae Soo pulled his shirt off and started to push it over Giselle's head. "You can't go out like that. Absolutely not allowed!"
Arguing, she wiggled out of the trap and they engaged in a cat and mouse game with him trying to cover her. With all the laughter and chase, they had not noticed that they had a visitor.
Giselle was the first to glimpse a slender and attractive Asian woman standing in the doorway. She stopped, allowing Tae Soo catch her and when he yelled, "I go you!", she poked him, pointing to the direction of the entrance. "Let's take a time out. Who is that woman?"
The actor turned, still in a playful mood - the joy drained out of his face rapidly and he paled. He froze in his spot with the T-shirt held up over Giselle's head, shirtless and barefoot, next to an almost naked woman. "Oma," he whispered.
"Dangsin-i naleul chodaehaji anh-eul su issseubnida?"
"What did she say?" Whispered back Giselle, studying the woman with interest.
"Aren't you going to invite me in?" Staring in disbelief at the guest, he translated with lips so white, he looked sickly. "This is my mother."
"Hello," mumbled Giselle, quickly cladding the shirt over her exposed body and then saying the rest of her introduction. "I'm Giselle. Nice to meet you."
The woman looked down at Giselle and as if she was made out of some disgustingly stinking substance, averted her face and pinched her nose. She then looked at her son and pronounced in Korean, "You are going home." The few words Giselle managed to have picked up from Tae Soo were enough for her make out the meaning of the sentence. The actor quietly looked at his mother and then turning to his girlfriend requested, "Do you mind leaving us alone? I'm sorry. Can you wait in your bedroom, please?"
She nodded and departed, feeling the icy picks of his mother's eyes darting at her back.
Giselle locked herself inside and climbed onto bed, curling to pull her knees up to her chin; she felt utterly helpless. Tae Soo's mother's visit was a shock to him, from what she had gathered. Parents usually don't show up like that unless they are very, very pissed. It appeared that this sudden visit was a last resort to rein her son in and save Tae Soo from making a mistake of abandoning his promising career for more trivial pursuits like love and happiness. Giselle had to scoff at her own sarcasm.
It was difficult not to presume the worst. Or maybe, his mother simply missed him and was worried because of all the publicity shrouded in mystery. One thing was for certain – Giselle was not a likely candidate for Tae Soo's girlfriend. As embarrassing as it was to admit, her looks, her education and her social standing were definitely not up to par with what everybody expected from her famous boyfriend. If she had a son like him, would she willingly accept a girl like Giselle into the family without serious reservations?
She did not have that much time to contemplate as she heard the door slam. She peeked out of her room – the empty house felt abandoned. She looked out the window – nothing. She figured it could only mean two things: either bad or very bad.
Giselle imagined that at this moment Tae Soo's mother probably was assuming all kind of things about the naked girl in his living room and he was trying to prove her wrong. In the end, a mother is a mother and winning against one's parents is not an easy fit. From what she had learned about Korean culture, parents had a lot of say in children's relationships and choices about dating. And being a good son was very important to Tae Soo.
I guess, I should pack. I can't stay in this house while his mother is around. I wonder if I will even have a chance to see him much now.
"Giselle. I'm back - Alone."
"What about your mother?" she ran over, worriedly looking up.
"My mother is going back tomorrow. She is staying at a hotel. I told her about you."
"What did you tell her?"
"The truth. My mother... She just needs some time... And you wearing bikinis was a bit..."
"Yes, not the best way to make a great first impression."
"No. However," he bended to level with her eyes, making her instantly nervous. "She wants me to return much sooner than anticipated."
"Is there something wrong? Or she just does not want you living with the likes of me?" She asked, trembling.
"They gave me a deadline." He said with a heavy sigh, looking over her with a resigned expression. "The president of my agency called my mother directly. They put her in the middle, they put my family in the middle, Giselle. It is not just about me anymore."
Her eyes grew bigger, filling with agony. "When?" she lipped inaudibly.
"You would think they are doing it on purpose," he added scornfully, "In three days."
A quick panic began to take over Giselle; it was becoming hard to breathe. "I thought you said you don't have anything planned till October."
"They moved up the date. All the campaign materials have to be ready for an early reveal of the fall/winter collection. They want me ready for the shooting. I can't postpone any longer. I will be sued for millions for the breach of contract."
Momentarily they got stuck in a weighty silence: him biting his lip and nervously tapping his foot and her staring down at her nails, fighting with unwanted tears. Finally she managed to push those tears down and keep them where they belonged, stifled and patiently waiting for the permission to come out when she was finally alone. She took a breath of courage and smiled as brightly as she could at the moment. "Then it's great. Although we don't really have till the end of summer, like we thought all along, we still have a few days left. We need to make the most of it!"
"How?" His look of disbelief struck her, but did not deter.
"Is there anything else at all that you want to do or see?"
Tae Soo gave her an uneasy smile. He wanted to be truthful with her. He could care less about discovering another pretty waterfall or secluded secret beach. The only thing he wanted do was to be next to Giselle and the only sight he wanted to see was her beautiful face. Would telling her break the rules of their agreement?
"I just want to be with you," he explained softly. Loving light was pouring out of his shiny eyes, gentle and genuine as always.
She stumbled on the prepared answer she had rehearsed many times in front of the mirror for just such an occasion. Her face was lost, emotions warring with each other. "Me too." Her lips opened involuntarily and words slipped out, sliding of her tongue uncontrollably.
"Then let's do that."
"Can we start by having dinner?"
"Oh we can start where we left off," offered Giselle suggestively, removing the t-shirt to uncover her bikini adorned body.